Global stocks edged lower along with oil futures on Tuesday following Monday's strong gains and as investors were cautious ahead of the release of U.S. central bank meeting minutes.
Markets were focused on the U.S. Federal Reserve minutes from March, due later in the day, that could provide clues on policymakers' willingness to take further steps to ease.
Fed policymakers on Monday signaled little appetite for further monetary steps to stimulate U.S. growth in an economy that is gradually strengthening.
Still, optimism about further stimulus from the Fed has helped fuel gains in stocks.
Data Tuesday showing new orders for U.S. factory goods rebounded in February and firms increased orders for capital goods had little effect on markets.
The MSCI world equity index was down 0.1%, taking a breather after a two-day rally, and U.S. stocks were down slightly after the benchmark S&P 500 climbed to a 4-year high in the previous session.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 9.31 points, or 0.07%, at 13,255.18. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 1.56 points, or 0.11%, at 1,417.48. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 4.79 points, or 0.15%, at 3,124.49.
Concern that the euro zone remained vulnerable to Spain's financial struggles weighed on European stocks indexes.
European stocks dropped 0.5%, with the Spanish stock index IBEX tumbling 1.4%, hit by worries over Madrid's ability to tackle its debt burden while its economy flounders.
Spain's debt will jump to its highest level since at least 1990 this year as the economy sinks into recession and borrowing costs rise, a document detailing the country's 2012 budget showed, pushing Spanish 10-year bond yields up to 5.43%.
The number of registered Spanish jobless also rose for the eighth straight month in March as companies from all sectors continued to lay off staff.
Recent doubts over the pace of global economic growth and a conviction that the euro zone's debt crisis is far from over have given pause to a robust rally for stock markets in the first quarter.
In the oil market, Brent crude oil futures was down 13 cents at USD 125.30 a barrel, surrendering some of the previous session's sharp gains after U.S. gasoline demand data weakened sentiment.
The dollar was up 0.1% against a basket of currencies.
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